Pennsylvania Avenue To Be Closed

NKC Tribune, Thurs., September 3, 1992

(Pennsylvania Avenue in Roslyn, between First and Second Streets, will be closed to vehicle traffic from 8:00 a.m. Wed., Sept. 9, thru 8:00 p.m. Thurs. Sept. 10, during filming.)

By M.J. "Squeak" Giaudrone

Behold! The Tourists!! They're everywhere. And they come from everywhere! Roslyn had its fair share of tourists before the onset of Northern Exposure. It is an historic town which is included in the National Register of Historic Places. It is a hometown to so many who had to leave when the coal mining industry came to a halt. It is a retirement town for those who have chosen to return.

And it is fast becoming the antidote to Seattle- and Bellevue-itis. But Roslyn wasn't really credited for being a tourist town until Universal Studios agreed to using it for its location scenes in Northern Exposure. It had been a quaint little town in the foothills of the Cascades "that had some interesting things to see--the buildings, the cemeteries--" and "the people are really nice."

None of that has changed. What has changed is that, without doing anything, Roslyn has become one of the hottest tourist attractions in the state. Judy Moen, a third-generation Roslynite and secretary for the Cle Elum Chamber of Commerce, says, "The show has done more for the Chamber to promote this area than we ever could have done, with the free advertising on television and in magazines such as TV Guide and People. Advertising is expensive."

Moen states that not only has Roslyn benefited economically from Northern Exposure, but so has Cle Elum. "Roslyn has no motels and fewer restaurants, so Cle Elum has to benefit." The majority of phone calls Moen receives at the Chamber office in Cle Elum have to do with the show, and most of her time on Tuesdays is spent talking about the show. "Everyone watches it Monday night, so that's all they want to talk about when they call," she adds. And do they call! "Most everyone wants to know when they're filming or if they will be filming when they get here.

"One man, from New Jersey, wanted to know if the moose would be walking down the street when he got here," Moen laughed. "I told him, 'No, the moose is a wild animal.' I said, 'I can promise you there will be a camel on the wall, but I can't promise you a moose'." Moen said the State Tourism office is also dealing with the discovery of Roslyn as an important part of the state. People contacting them want to know where Roslyn is and how to get there. and about the show. Since the show is shown in some countries overseas, the state is helping to plan excursions for groups of tourists.

"They're bringing a Dutch group in October," Moen said, "and a German group is also coming[.]" In Roslyn, Margaret Heidi and Maria Fischer serve as the Roslyn branch of the Chamber--by virtue of being the respective city clerk and deputy clerk/city treasurer. "Ninety percent of the calls we receive at city hall, and even the ones we answer for the police department, are tourist related," Heide states. "We get about 20 per day." The city is reimbursed by Pipeline Productions for the time they must take away from their routine jobs and become travel information officers.

"Before they came, if we answered the police phone once a month it was something. But now, even with three full-time officers, we're taking 10-15 calls a day. They really need an answering machine. In fact, if we had one in this office, we could put the filming schedule on the tape and save ourselves a lot of time, because mostly, people want to know when they are filming."

The Tourist $$$

With the label of tourism comes the bottom line--dollars! For the general population, having a television series filmed in the downtown area is novel, interesting, often inconvenient, and sometimes downright bothersome. If a resident doesn't own a business, it is sometimes difficult to see how the economy has improved for all of the residents. But improved, it has, since Roslyn's exposure to Northern Exposure. There is no question money has come into the town because of the payroll for local extras, rental fees for machinery, space, etc., but the tourists are bringing a lot with them, too, and leaving a whole lot of it behind.

Mary Andler, Roslyn museum curator, lifelong resident and probably Northern Exposure's best public relations expert, can't say enough good things about the production. In fact, because some of the tourists may have picked up a few "negative comments" on their way down the street to the museum, her most-often asked question is a tentative, "How do you feel about the show being here?" "When I tell them I think it's great, they seem to relax and then start talking about the show and the town." Mary, a retired business woman, feels the show has been just the boost in the economy Roslyn has needed for a long time; the last of the coal mines closed in 1963; logging has declined rapidly.

The donations at the museum have grown so fast since the show came Mary says they will soon start improvements on the building. Long-needed insulation, a new facade to cover the cinderblock construction and better lighting for inside are those which have moved to the top of the list from their "maybe someday" location. Where tourists signed the museum guest book at the rate of three or four thousand a year before Northern Exposure, her Tuesday morning figures totaled 19,436-- plus the twenty or so who came in during our brief interview. Those figures only reflect the past eight months. "And everyone who comes to town doesn't stop here," Mary notes.

What does stop in Roslyn, momentarily, takes a leave of absence and then returns is not the tourist. What is coming back in bundles--and this is where all of the residents are benefiting--is the sales tax off the tourist dollars. These dollars go into the city treasury and come back out in the form of city improvements-- streets, utilities, parks, etc. In 1986, the average amount of sales tax returned to Roslyn was about $8,000 each year. In 1988 and 1989, a large number of real estate transactions took place, pushing the sales tax figures to $17,622 and $19,373, respectively. Northern Exposure came in 1990 and the sales tax revenue jumped to $23,321. In the first seven months of 1992, the figure has climbed to $24,624. That is a 300% increase over what had been the norm for a very long time.

A tourist from British Columbia, caught taking a courtesy picture of another tourist, was amazed to learn that the city of Roslyn was not part of a series of studio sets, but that it actually looks the way it does--and has--since about the 1930s. He found it difficult to believe that the newest building in the businessdistrict--the Roslyn Brewing Co.--is not one of the oldest buildings, it just looks that way. He and his wife were fascinated to find that, as Mary put it, "When they (the production people) go home, you'd never know they had been here." But you know the tourists have been here. It seems like they never leave. At 11 o'clock at night, during the middle of the week, one still can't find a place to park on Pennsylvania Avenue, between First and Second Streets.

The only thing different is that no one is standing on the corner taking a picture of the camel on the side of the Roslyn Cafe--Yet. If a little girl from Kent has herway, that could change, too. Lonni Townsend, Roslyn postmaster, has had her share of the tourist trade, and notes that a hand-stamped Roslyn postmark and postcard stamps have been requested the most often. But she also gets questions, such as to the location of public restrooms and other "where-can-I-finds" She even was asked if she thought series regular Janine Turner would be interested in dating the man with the question.

But what Lonnie found of interest was a copy of a letter written as a school assignment to State Senator Sylvia Skratek from a former Roslyn visitor and forwarded by the girl's mother. The letter reads: Dear Senator Skratek, I think that the town of Roslyn, Washington should be a state landmark because the show "Northern Exposure" is filmed there. When I visited Roslyn, I met the nice people in town. Even though TV stars use their streets and buildings, the local people are still friendly.

By allowing the show to be taped in Roslyn, the state has received a lot of money. The actors and crew eat in local restaurants and stay in hotels here. Some have even bought houses in Washington. They also rent or buy cars and trucks in the state. If the town of Roslyn wouldn't allow the filming of "Northern Exposure" to remain there, the state would lose a lot of funds. Roslyn is surrounded by the beautiful mountains, which makes it a place that is great to visit. Many tourists come to Roslyn for its scenery and to look over the town that has become famous on the east side of the mountains. Sincerely, Cary Boona Fourth grade, St. Anthony's Catholic School, Renton.

Created 2/14/02
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